Once you arrive in Serbia, or start learning Serbian, the first thing you will hear is a big warm-hearted ‘Dobro došli’ or ‘Welcome’. The younger population of Serbia usually speaks English, but the older generation still heavily relies on Russian, and doesn’t know a word of English other than «No problem» or «O.K.» (which is, by the way, transliterated into Serbian as «Okej»).
The second thing you’ll be asked, without any doubt, is «Odakle si?» (‘Where are you from?’). It would, of course, be nice to know the answer in Serbian, but in any case, just tell them the country’s name in English – they will most probably get it. You form the answer by starting with ‘Iz’ (which means ‘from’) and the name of the country in the Genitive Case (Cases will be explained thoroughly in a future article). Some examples are Iz Engleske, iz S.A.D., iz Francuske, iz Srbije (from England, the U.S.A., France, Serbia). Depending on the situation, there are many different Serbian greetings and phrases you can use, which vary from formal to completely informal.
The most common are «Dobar Dan/Dobro jutro/Dobro veče» (good day, good morning, good evening) – these are mostly used when talking to strangers, older people, in a store, in a bank, etc. In contrast, when you get into one of the stores that are more “hip”, you might be greeted with a simple «Ćao» or «Zdravo» (both of them meaning ‘Hello’). Serbs have adapted Ćao from the Italian ‘Ciao’, although the main difference, besides the letters, is that in Serbia it’s used both as informal ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. Formal ‘goodbye’ has two versions: «Doviđenja» or «Prijatno». The funny thing about the word «Prijatno» is its dual usage; the first one is a greeting, and the second one is ‘Bon Appetite’ which, considering the Serbian obsession with food and eating, is something every foreigner in Serbia should learn 🙂
After «Dobar Dan», you will usually be asked «Kako si?» or «Kako ste?» which mean ‘how are you?’ (informal/formal), or if you are among the younger crowd – «Šta ima?» (‘what’s up?’) or «Gde si?» (‘where are you?’).
In general, Serbs tend to be very informal in all of their conversations, so in order to feel like one of them, it’s encouraged to talk informally. You will, often, be addressed with «Sine» (‘My Son’) or «Dete» (‘My Child’) by the elderly, which is their way of expressing their affection and closeness towards you. Don’t worry, they don’t think you are one of their long lost children.
Of course, expressions of gratitude are most welcome, even in some cases when you don’t think you should say ‘thank you’. They also depend on the situation, and range from «Hvala» (‘Thanks’), to «Hvala puno» (‘Thanks a lot’), or «Hvala Vam puno» (‘Thank you a lot’). When someone thanks you, you should reply with «Nema na čemu» which in literal translation to English means ‘Nothing to thank me for’, although there usually is something…
Until the next time, or as we would say – «Doviđenja»!
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